In 2013 we initiated a number of conversations with professionals working in a variety of visual arts contexts. We were interested in understanding how questions of environmental sustainability might be expressed in practical and conceptual ways within visual arts festival organisation, curatorial practices and commissioning of artworks.
Our research questions included:
In July 2013 we held a Strategy Group meeting to review the direction of our research. The meeting brought together a group of visual arts and carbon experts including Sorcha Carey (Edinburgh Art Festival), Matt Baker (Artist and curator of Environmental Art Festival Scotland), Anne Petrie (Creative Scotland) and Rachel Dunk (Crichton Carbon Centre). Click here to download a short summary of the meeting.
Edinburgh Art Festival
Between 2013 – 2014 we worked with EAF on their major exhibition exploring and problematising the history of the Commonwealth Where do I end and you begin (August 2014) to gather new data on areas including:
In the year leading up to the exhibition we held a series of group and Skype discussions with the five exhibition curators to introduce questions of environmental sustainability into their decision making processes. We asked the curators to keep a travel log, as well as a record of their personal reflections on the process, to expand the depth of their engagement in sustainability whilst undertaking the project.
All sorts of tricky questions arise when you combine questions of sustainability and international working: what are the trade-offs between shipping artworks and flying them?; what social benefits might come from bringing an artist with their work to Edinburgh; how does the lifespan of the artwork effect it’s environmental impact?
These questions are difficult and not always reconcilable but we see taking the time to consider them as a first step to embedding sustainability more firmly within different practices.
Some key decisions were made, partly as a result of these conversations, which reduced the environmental impact and financial cost of the exhibition. These included:
Environmental Art Festival Scotland
In 2013 we also teamed up with EAFS and the Crichton Carbon Centre to explore the realities of implementing a triple bottom line approach to running the festival, considering environmental, social and economic sustainability impacts of public art commissions and the festival as a whole.
Part of our contribution was to encourage the commissioned artists to consider environmental impacts of the production and installation of their artworks. The key areas we have asked them to think about were:
We created this interview template to discuss with the artists some different areas for consideration. Some of the findings and feedback on this process included:
The new findings and knowledge generated from the research with artists as well as with audiences has acted as a useful feedback loop to help influence decisions about future iterations of the festival. In particular, the siting of artworks across one coherent site to reduce the amount of audience travel.
A project initiated by Edinburgh’s Festivals with key partners the Federation of Scottish Theatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network
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Incorporated Organisation. Registered Charity number: SC042687
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